A welcome sight, rolling out of KS and in to CO. Ah, we LOVE CO!

“If you can’t find ‘em, GRIND ‘em!” Remember that saying when you learned to drive a stick shift? I heard it once or twice- and I experienced it again just recently, when we changed gears and settled back into real (?) life at home. The bus is parked outside our bedroom window, the cupboards are cleaned out, the water lines and tank sanitized, the sunshades propped in the windows for days at a time…

We left Joplin with the sun in our face as we pushed West, through the menacing storms of MO & KS. Listening to the weather radio and the CB, we knew the wind was acting up just ahead, and by the looks of the rear camera we were slicing through an ocean of water as the van took on thousands of gallons of fresh rain head on. The wind effects behind a large vehicle are real, as you know from following a semi trailer closely- there’s a point close in where it just gets calm, and if you drop back the wind jiggles your vehicle back and forth. Well, at that point the water also comes together from under, over and the sides of the big old bus. That water would take its toll tomorrow as it simulated the van transmission failure on the Colorado interstate…

No tornados, no accidents and finally a calm stretch let my nerves settle, but the pressure to get home before fireworks led to some pertinent math equations as we calculated how long I could sleep before getting back on the road again: “If a bus loaded with 9 people is traveling West, and a train is traveling East with 225 people, and both are moving 60 miles per hour”- kind of thing…. We figured out I had at least 6 hours of down time to sleep before stepping on the pedal again. We wrapped the night up with 180 degrees of fireworks along the Kansas horizon ahead of us as the farmers, municipalities and rednecks fired off their finest mortars for our pleasure. As if we were entering a stadium of celebration we ended the long day pulling into an interstate rest stop for a few hours sleep.

Without hesitation after my first sliver of consciousness, I was back on the highway before everyone was up, and made good time all day. Kansas makes for a long daytime drive, but it’s safer than the night time fear of wildlife popping out at the last minute- although the response would be the same (driving through and not swerving), there’s less anxiety with sunlight at our backs. Listened to a lot of iPod, audio book and kids speculating about what their first official acts as returning permanent residents would be. Most of the kids if not all were going to pursue friends, though someone said they just wanted to lay in their own bed. I was most interested in the cool (50 degree) nights with the windows open.

Fireworks are usually at 930, so we had plenty of time to mosey back to our own driveway, which time we needed. The outside temperature climbed pretty quickly, soaring to the high 90’s before lunch. The Westbound interstate rolls along over what appear to be gentle lumps in a standard passenger car as you approach Denver- but the bus motor was cycling back to HOT so quickly that I pulled off to unhook the van and let the bus rest (we still had about 3.5 hours to go- but Kelly was ready for a break from the chicken coop).  The bus always acts giddy after taking the van off,  gets rolling quickly, and seems a little more spry navigating (that van is 8,000 pounds), so I like taking the van off…

Kinda weird that this light (the ENGINE FIRE indicator) would illuminate on our first day, and on our last day of this journey. What does that mean? Factually, it means that the sensor is sensitive, because the coolant temp didn't exceed 195 degrees, according to the geniuses that we love at ABC bus tech support. (not a sarcastic statement)

The bus cooled nicely, but I got a call from Kelly and Trevor just a few minutes into the drive that the auto transmission wasn’t shifting out of 2nd gear in the van, then the transmission indicator wasn’t lighting up on the dashboard, and the check engine light wasn’t going off like it usually does after starting. We pulled off under an overpass with another pair of cars that were having mechanical trouble and took a look at the van. Nothing obvious. Quick call to my mechanic man back home on the 4th of July (if you ever give me your cell phone number  I will make a note of it for future use), and we decided to hook the van back up and tow it home. Argh. We just moved a little slower, the bus stayed cool and everyone was together for the rest for the uneventful ride home… Up the canyon, around the curves, in front of the line of traffic- you know- big RV style of a mountain ascent.

If you’ve ever been to Estes Park, you know that final descent into town, after climbing for 25 minutes through the foothills. It is the apex of the highway at Pole Hill when you catch a glimpse of the Continental Divide surrounding a quaint little town situated at the side of a clear mountain reservoir that you get that feeling of ‘being there’. For our family fortunate enough to call this place home, it’s also the transition to a safe community that our kids can take off for a few hours to play outside, or walk to their friends house, or just take advantage of Mother Nature by being there. In the 18,000+ miles we’ve put on since we lived here last (Aug 2010), we never found a place that was more attractive than what lay before us, in the Estes Valley. We couldn’t see our friends faces yet, but we could feel the warmth and welcome within the first few minutes of arriving. In the few miles between this point and our home, we’d wave to a half dozen familiar faces amid the chaos of holiday traffic in this tourist mecca. Within another hour we’d be taking up another family on their offer to stop by and watch the fireworks show. We were shifting gears before the wheels on the bus even stopped, and it felt pretty good to be home…. kind of.

They were out the door before the rubber stopped rolling... Unhook the bus and back her in the driveway and then- unload. Yuck. But glad to see the house standing, and the yard for the most part intact. (thank you elk and deer for your hard work on our yard while we were gone)